Thursday, June 1, 2017

Leon County Schools' 2017 middle school cross country schedule

Tallahassee has a long, hot summer. It's an indisputable fact. But as innumerable as the sultry days may seem, they do come to an end, and cross-country season is here. That's when it will seem like there just wasn't enough summer to do all the pre-season training, and athletes worry that maybe the other teams logged a few more miles in July despite the warmth. I suspect that there's a life lesson there, but let's talk about running.

2016 Everhart Invitational
The start of the girls' two-mile race at the 2016 Everhart Invitational

Just in time for summer training, Leon County Schools has released its 2017 middle school cross-country schedule. Here it is:

Leon County Schools
2017 Middle School Cross-Country Schedule
September 7
6:00 PM Girls
6:30 PM Boys
Swift Creek InvitationalApalachee Regional Park
September 14
6:00 PM Girls
6:30 PM Boys
Fort Braden RunFort Braden Park
September 21
10:45 AM Girls
11:15 AM Boys
Everhart InvitationalGretchen Everhart School
September 28
6:00 PM Girls
6:30 PM Boys
Mustang InvitationalMontford Middle School
October 4
6:00 PM Girls
6:30 PM Boys
LCS ChampionshipApalachee Regional Park

For the fourth year in a row there are five meets on the calendar. With luck, this will be the year that five meets are actually held. Venue problems, lightning storms, and hurricanes saw one of the events partially or completely canceled in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The season progression is the same as 2016--the Swift Creek Invitational on the Apalachee Regional Park Championship Cross-Country Course opens the season on Thursday evening, 7 September 2017; followed by the Fort Braden Run on Wednesday evening, 13 September 2017; the Everhart Invitational at Gretchen Everhart School on Thursday morning, 21 September 2017; the Mustang Invitational at Montford Middle School on Thursday evening, 28 September 2017; and the LCS Championships on Thursday evening, 5 October 2017. In previous years, most of the meets would be on Wednesdays with the Everhart Invitational on a Thursday, but this year everything has moved to Thursdays, with only the Fort Braden Run on a Wednesday. For the sake of consistency, can't everything be on a Thursday?

2016 Swift Creek Middle School boys' cross-country team
The Swift Creek boys, 2016 LCS Cross-Country Champions

The meets are only open to middle school in the Leon County School system: Cobb, Deerlake, Fairview, Fort Braden, Griffin, Montford, Nims, Raa, Swift Creek, and Woodville. These aren't the only middle school cross-country competitions in the area, though. Most notably, Holy Comforter Episcopal School has been hosting a pair of meets for years, and will do so again in 2017: the Crusader Cross-County Classic on 14 September 2017 and the Tallahassee Middle School Open on 12 October 2017. There will also be middle school races on the programs of the Cougar Cross-Country Challenge at Phipps Park on 26 August 2017, the Big Bend Cross-Country Invitational at Apalachee Regional Park on 2 September 2017, and the FSU Invitational on 6 October 2017. If that's not enough, there's a middle school race at the Yellow Jacket Cross-Country Invitational next door in Thomasville, Georgia on 14 October 2017.

Middle school experience isn't essential to later athletic success, but it doesn't hurt. Tallahassee had two state champions in high school cross country during the 2016 season in class 3A, Michael Phillips of Chiles in the boys' race and Alyson Churchill of Lincoln on the girls' side. Phillips ran for Talawanda Middle School in Oxford, Ohio, and Churchill ran for Swift Creek Middle School here in Tallahassee. They weren't the only former middle school athletes on Tallahassee's high school, junior college, and university cross country teams in 2016, and you'll see more middle school cross-country alumni racing during 2017.

2016 Montford Middle School girls' cross-country team
The Montford girls, 2016 LCS Cross-Country Champions

You might or might not see some future state champions or NCAA All-Americans racing in this year's slate of middle school cross-country meets. You will, though, certainly see some young athletes enjoying the greatest sport in the world.